Many areas of law are very competitive when it comes to fighting for market share and acquiring new clients. One of the most challenging areas of practice is criminal defense law. Many criminal lawyers will probably resonate with one or several of these points.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a number of options to implement in your marketing and business development toolbelt to starting bringing more clients into your firm. Some of these methods may be more conventional and others could arguably be clumped together as internet or digital marketing. However, the web is virtually endless, so we’ll breakdown the different methods your practice can be found online – and why it’s important.

1. Referrals from other Lawyers and Clients

A key to marketing and generating business in any area of law is to understand the intricacies at play. For criminal defense lawyers, it’s understanding your referral sources and their willingness to refer. Sure, there may be people out there willing to refer their past criminal defense attorney to their friend or colleague. However, consider how many people openly discuss such private and embarrassing legal matters that they face? People are generally going to keep a DUI or more serious charge to themselves as much as possible.

It’s more probable that criminal defense clients will be referred to an attorney through another attorney. Many lawyers that practice this type of law and have been doing so for years live off of referrals for the majority of their business alone. There are a number of ways that lawyers can generate referrals from their peers at other firms or practicing other areas of law. Many lawyers nowadays setup referral fees and yet there are more organic ways of case generating referrals, including networking and business development.

2. Building a Reputation

One great way to generate referrals and overall buzz about your criminal defense legal practice is by building a reputation in your local market and communities. One of the most effective ways to do this is by taking on high publicity cases that are sure to generate news and media attention. As the case picks up attention, so will the attorney and his reputation.

One way to bootstrap this method, regardless if you’re a new practitioner or a lawyer with years of experience is to take on pro-bono work and controversial cases at no cost to the client. While many people won’t remember the lawyer’s name from reading it in the newspaper or seeing the case on TV from weeks or months ago (if not longer), fellow attorneys will. This in turn, builds a stronger source of referrals. 

Be aware though, that when you’re in the spotlight, you need to be worth your salt in order to generate referrals from your peers. While you may get new clients coming in the door from the media attention, your steady stream of new leads and cases long term will be from those that are 1) aware of you and; 2) confident in your ability and competence to try the cases they send to you.

3. Getting Approached in the Courthouse

Lawyers practicing criminal defense have mentioned that on more than one occasion, they’ve been approached by defendants in the courthouse. There’s no real magic to this and since we’re consultants, not lawyers, we can’t speak directly to the effectiveness of this approach. 

However, it sounds like a function of being in the right place at the right time. It seems that the more you’re in the courthouse, the higher your odds are of acquiring a new client this way.

Back to methods we can vouch for…

4. Promote Your Brand Where Your Clients Are

If you’re a new criminal defense lawyer or simply don’t have a large marketing budget, then this could be a great way for you to get a handful of criminal or DUI clients. Especially for DUI cases, think about where your clients are most prone to hang out. One place you’re bound to find potential DUI clients are from bars. 

You can start with a relatively small budget of $500 – $1,000 to have branded lighters, coasters, pens or other small promotional materials made. They don’t have to be high quality, but the nicer they are, the longer people will tend to use them for. Make sure they have your name or brand clearly readable and visible, what you do (DUI / criminal defense) and your phone number.

Then, go to bars in your local areas and jurisdiction, offering the bar owner to pass out or have these free items on tap for their customers. It’s preferable to have items like pens, lighters or bottle openers made rather than coasters. The reason being is that these are marketing materials that bar customers are likely to take with them when they leave the bar, rather than coasters that temporarily visible and disposable. The longer that your target audience holds onto these items, the better odds your firm is of staying top of mind when a few of them need your services and call you.

This method takes a page out of the book in behavioral marketing. When you perform behavioral marketing in a smart or novel manner, you’re able to reach your target audience and usually with a smaller budget than other forms of advertising and promotion. It requires some analysis of your target clients. Creating marketing personas and client avatars can be effective in helping you determine ways of finding new audiences in creative and imaginative fashions.

Internet Marketing and Advertising

Finally, we get to internet marketing. Internet marketing for criminal defense and DUI attorneys can start at a low budget and rise quickly, depending on your time investment as well as desire to scale your marketing and client acquisition efforts.

Google’s keyword planner, shows that there are on average 69,500 Google searches per month for searches such as “criminal defense attorney” and “dui lawyer”. That only accounts for some of the more direct keywords and search terms, not to mention the countless more specific search terms people use to research the criminal code in their jurisdiction pertaining to their case. 

Search, whether that be through the web or another platform like YouTube for video, is the critical component for criminal and DUI lawyers seeking to increase the number of monthly files they open. Below, we’ll discuss specific channels and mediums your criminal defense practice should be taking advantage of.

5. Make Videos

Video is a rising form of content. With bandwidth getting faster and cheaper, we stream more video today, whether it be for entertainment, educational or informational purposes. The legal industry fits in between education and information, where people with specific legal matters are looking for answers to the serious and burning legal related questions.

Video doesn’t need to be fancy. You can record on your phone or invest some money into a video camera and a $50 audio microphone that attaches to your shirt. Video format allows you to publish on a variety of different platforms, including YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. As for the structure of the video, follow a format such as:

  1. Introduction – Introduce yourself, what you do (area of law) and your firm.
  2. Pitch an Offer – Make this quick. 10 seconds maximum and get onto your next point.
  3. Tell a Story – Make it short (1-2 minutes), but if it fits well with your video’s main point, then by all means tell a story about a client (without breaking privilege, of course).
  4. Discuss the Point – This is why you led with your story (if at all). What’s the moral or point of the story. What did you want to discuss about the criminal / DUI legal matter?
  5. Re-pitch your Offer – Make another quick pitch. Think of your pitch as the book-ends of each video, with your story, point and thus expertise in the middle.
  6. Outro – Wrap up with final point and re-state your intro.

When contemplating the contents of your videos, check out our section on blogging below as well as our list of blog ideas for law firms. Videos don’t need to be lengthy, you can record anything between 3 and 15 minutes. Keep in mind that platforms like instagram have playback duration limits and shorter videos tend to perform better on Facebook. However, videos on the longer end can perform better on search and YouTube, which is what we suggest you focus your efforts on.

A Word of Caution about Social Media

You’re more than welcome and allowed (at the moment) to run ads and market your practice on Facebook. One of the ways we and our law firm clients use Facebook is for ad retargeting after people have visited their website (or specific pages).

When it comes to criminal defense and DUI law, you have to be particularly careful and sensitive when retargeting ads to people. As we mentioned earlier, this is a particularly private and embarrassing legal matter for your clients and prospects, so respecting their privacy and treading carefully is important – more for not upsetting people, rather than acquiring clients.

6. Blog about your Typical Clients’ Issues

There are a plethora of topics and questions criminal defense and dui attorneys can discuss, whether on their blog or in video (vlog) format. Because the law is so vibrant and changes between states, you can expect their to be many content gaps and unanswered (or insufficiently answered) questions for you to blog about.

Typing something related to beating a DUI charge in the state which you practice will offer you a wealth of questions and searches to write about. When you find a topic that you’d like to write about, supply your readers with thorough responses. You’re not giving legal advice, but information regarding their questions and cases. For more ideas on blogging check out our different law blog topics.

Blogging and content marketing offers a great way to find local competition keywords and search terms that you can rank for more easily and faster than conventional SEO search terms. It allows you to rank for more keywords and when performed correctly, you can acquire more traffic to your website than you could from ranking for the more conventional and competitive criminal law and dui keywords.

7. SEO for DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys

As we saw earlier, there are approximately 70,000 searches per month in the U.S. for criminal defense lawyers and drunk driving charge attorneys. We’ve laid out the hypothesis that people would rather search for a lawyer for this particular matter, privately rather than openly asking friends and relatives for referrals. 

SEO (search engine optimization) is one of several solutions to appearing in the search results of Google, Bing and other major search engines. The keywords mentioned earlier are among the most commonly searched for that display high search intent to contact or hire a lawyer.

Organic Search Results

Looking at the search results, you will notice that competition is stiff. Not only will you be competing with other attorneys in the area, but also the marketing companies that sell leads and marketing services to lawyers. Therefore, it can take a while (between 6 to 12 months, when performed correctly) to see results from investments in SEO for these highly competitive keywords.

Local Search Results

Another area where you can show up for your city or state on the search results page is called the local or map pack. These results are geographically specific, so if your law firm doesn’t fit within the bounds of the map displayed above, unlike the organic results, you have nearly no chance of ranking for this area.

Garner Client Testimonials and Reviews

A large contributing factor to ranking for the local map pack is the quantity and quality of reviews. Your practice doesn’t require the most reviews, but some are likely necessary to rank in one of these three positions. Furthermore, reviews and testimonials (on Google, social media and your website) can go a long way in converting as many new visitors into leads and clients as possible. This form of social proof is the new standard in word of mouth to build trust and reassure prospective criminal and DUI clients that you’ll fight for them in court. 

It can be more difficult than other areas of practice to accrue reviews and testimonials, due to the sensitive nature of these areas of law. However, if it’s more difficult for you, then it’s also more difficult for the majority of your competitors. Hence, the value of reviews increases. Some methods for having people submit a testimonial is by blurring out their face in the photo and using initials for their first, last name or both. 

Letting them know beforehand that you will redact their personal information can be persuasive in collecting more reviews. Provided the reviews they write and submit are genuine, this will also build trust and confidence in potential clients. While some may be skeptical about the legitimacy of the reviews, others will see an attorney that while seeking social proof, protects their clients confidentiality and privacy first and foremost.

8. PPC and Search Ads

The final place you can capture real estate on a search engine’s results page are with ad listings. The advantage with ad listings is that you can start running them almost immediately, unlike organic and local results which take time to rank in Google and Bing’s algorithms respectively. 

Whether you’re a defense attorney with a new or existing practice, search ads fantastic for generating leads and new cases. Even if you’re ranking on the page organically, you may decide to run ads on days that your organic results disappear or you want to capture more leads and cases by appearing on the page multiple times.

Depending on the city or state you’re running ads in, your firm’s budget and cost per click will vary. However, you only pay when your ads are clicked on and when configured correctly, you should see a steady amount of leads and cases compared to other marketing channels and referral sources.


When it comes to marketing your criminal and DUI practice, there are many methods for acquiring new clients. Using a combination or all 8 of these (when your budget allows it), can be powerful for becoming the go-to criminal defense attorney in your market. 

If you’re interested in working with internet marketing to expand your reach or think you could be doing better, contact Zahavian Legal Marketing to grow your practice faster and with more predictable results.